Three U.S. Olympic gold medalists and NCAA basketball champions out of Kansas University will be inducted into The State of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame today at the Boathouse in Wichita.
The talented KU trio, who helped KU claim the 1952 national hoops title: Al Kelley, originally of McCune, Bob Kenney of Winfield and Bill Lienhard of Newton.
They will be joined by Wichita Carroll defensive end Mike Bell; Pittsburg State’s three-time national football coach-of-the-year Chuck Broyles; Kansas State’s two-time All-America place-kicker Martín Gramática; and Clay Center’s two-time All-America basketball player Nicole Ohlde of Kansas State. Former Boston Celtic/Kentucky Wildcat Bob Brannum of Winfield will be enshrined posthumously at the 4 p.m. ceremony.
“It’s a great honor,” said Lienhard, who lives in Lawrence, as does Kelley; Kenney lives in Phoenix. “I’m surprised and overwhelmed. It’s very much appreciated.”
“I’m looking forward to it. As a native Kansan, I really appreciate the fact I’ll be in the Hall of Fame,” Kelley said. “It’s a nice honor.”
Of his teammates and fellow inductees, Lienhard said: “Bob was an excellent outside shooter and driver. That’s where he scored. Al was quick. He could score, drive, shoot. We’ve all been friends a long time.”
Noted Kelley: “Bill was a big guy in his day, 6-5, and a good set-shooter, just like Bob Kenney was. They were level-headed and played hard and had to be good to win the championship.”
Here’s a quick look at the KU inductees. ...
Al Kelley: A native of McCune in Crawford County, Earl Allen “Al” Kelley played for KU from 1952 to 1954 and went on to become an Olympic gold medalist in 1960. Kelley saw limited playing time on KU’s 1952 NCAA title team as a sophomore, then averaged 12.9 ppg as a junior for the national runner-up team. He averaged 12.4 ppg as a senior co-captain in 1954.
He was named to the All-Big Seven team in both 1953 and 1954. Kelley ranks sixth at KU for season-free-throw percentage (86.2 percent in 1954).
Following his collegiate career, Kelley was drafted in the seventh round of the 1954 NBA Draft, although he instead chose to play for the AAU powerhouse Peoria (IL) Caterpillars. In his first season with the Caterpillars in 1954, Kelley helped lead the team to the AAU national title and the 1954 World Basketball Championship in Brazil.
Bob Kenney: Robert “Bob” Kenney played for the 1952 KU title team and was a member of the 1952 Olympic gold medal team. A three-sport star for Winfield High in the late 1940s, Kenney played both football and basketball at KU in 1950 and 1951 before concentrating on basketball his senior year of 1952.
He was second on the team in scoring in both 1951 and 1952 and was a captain of the 1952 squad. Kenney was also an All-Big Seven selection in 1952.
Bill Lienhard: William B. “Bill” Lienhard was a standout on KU’s 1952 title team and ’52 Olympic gold medal squad. After earning all-state honors and leading the state in scoring his senior year for coach John Ravenscroft at Newton High in 1948, Lienhard was a three-year starter at KU. He was named a captain of the ’52 team and averaged 5.8 points per outing.
His calling card was an outstanding one-handed set shot which the KU game program described as “deadly against zone defenses” and described Lienhard as the “finest one-hand set-shooter in Kansas basketball history.”
He averaged 4.0 points per game for the ’52 Olympic team.
“Eighty to 90 percent of the shots I took would have been three-point goals today,” Lienhard said. “That’s where I shot from, 20 to 30 feet out there.”